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  • Writer's pictureGigi Gold

Week 4 of the 30 Day Self Portrait Challenge

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

ICYMI, I decided to embark on a 30 day self portrait challenge. Read more about it here.

Week 1's theme was "in bed", week 2 was "shadows", week 3 was "mirrors" and week 4 was all about the weird. I'm obsessed with photos that make you FEEL something, making use of different props, flash, and otherwise little oddities that add a bit of mystery or storytelling.

Day 22 was a weird one - I had a friend staying over because he was doing some plumbing work in the house #domesticaf. But luckily, after a hard day of work, James wanted to pop out and grab a beer at the pub #britishaf so I had a bit of time to bust out the camera, the flash, and a sequin mask.

Our downstairs bathroom is SO cool with these green subway tiles and old school toilet. The narrowness of the space adds this confined feeling, stumbling into a random toilet from a masquerade party. The flash was instrumental in making the image really pop out. I loved how these turned out and played with both a bunny and cat mask, sitting, standing, looking into the mirror, on the toilet, over the sink. It shows how even a tiny space can really tell a story.

Day 23 gave me a chance to use some semi-sheer fabric, a chunky necklace and a black backdrop. I wanted to create an intense yet simple image that was almost off-putting. The stark contrast of the red, black, and gold felt sort of eerie and almost religious in nature. Why is this person draped in fabric? Why is there a gold chain around the outside of the fabric? It's not a normal scenario, but this is exactly what this bold, distorted theme was all about. I got to add some fun filmic effects and borders, which I LOVE.

Day 24 was a great opportunity to play with double exposures which I am thoroughly obsessed with.

The process of double exposures is made really easy on digital cameras because you can take them over and over until you get it just right. Some photographers will do this in post (editing) but I really prefer to do it all in camera.

This image includes two photos, one of me staring into the camera, and the other capturing me shaking my head to give that ghosting movement effect.

Day 25 ended up being one of my absolute favorites.

I purchased some fake flowers from the interwebz and had a few different ideas in mind for how I could use them. One idea would have been nearly impossible to execute as a self portrait, so I'll leave that for a client shoot. Instead, I decided to take these gorgeous orange-red poppy flowers and stick them behind my glasses to take the place of my eyes. It gave me a sort of Coraline type of vibe, a little quirky, a little off-putting. I even used some tape and went sans glasses, but I so rarely wear my glasses that it was fun to take the opportunity to dress a little differently than normal.

Day 26 actually had 3 distinct ideas (you can see in the gallery.

I printed out an image of a mouth to put in front of my own, like a makeshift mask and added a very vintage/filmic edit to complement my hair/glasses/outfit. The other images included the use of an old school label maker stuck to my face and words written in eyeliner. These ideas are ones I'll execute on again in the future, and maybe get the support of a makeup artists because drawing on your own face isn't that easy.

But that's the beauty of this project - I can perfect the techniques for next time - whether I'm the model or I have a client in front of the lens.

Day 27 was another home run out of the park kind of day. I wanted to use fabric or plastic to drape over my face and give a distorted feel to the images. I ended up using both fabric and plastic and got some super cool and weird images. Again, the main challenge with these types of self-portraits is that you can't actually SEE what you're doing once you're set up.

This image shows a light pink scarf that I had to wet to make it see through enough to get some of my facial features in it. I loved these images and also learned the hard way that if you want to slick your hair back definitely invest in gel or water based pomade, because regular pomade is like glue that you cannot wash out of your hair. #worthit

Day 28 was another favorite, using some fake butterflies I found online. These were gorgeous and large which is exactly what I wanted. These also had some wires that I was able to hook around my ears and edit out. I realized that it would have been easier to get some tan medical tape because the editing would have been much faster.

I wanted a black, simple background so I could really highlight my face and the butterflies on them. I absolutely LOVED these and would love even more to do work like this with a model or client because it's extra tricky being the subject, having your sight obstructed, and get the exact shot you want.

Day 29 and 30 ended up being sort of "Bonus" days because I was doing 30 days, and had split up the last weeks into 7 days. Day 29 kind of piggybacked off day 28, using butterflies, but this time I used a projector image to add layers in.

I wanted to follow the shape of the butterfly wings with my own hands. Projector work is something I've done with clients before at my home studio, and it's a really cool way to layer images, add texture, and tell a different story.

Projector work is a bit like mirror work, where the angles REALLY matter. If you want a dead center shot (like this) the camera has to be over/behind the projector so the light has a clear pathway. But once the set up is perfected, it's a really satisfying and fun way to achieve creative & moody imagery.

Day 30 is an "assisted" self portrait. A friend/client of mine (see Francesca's gallery) told me about this amazing lake spot local to us that would be PERFECT to get this standing on water shot I was after.

We trekked through a deek park and through some muddy waters to get to this gorgeous, hidden lake, lugged out the stool into the water and started shooting away.

Thankfully we got some gorgeous sunshine which created these star-like effects (using a star refractor filter) on the gold sequin dress I was wearing.

This was one of those times where you realize modeling is not at ALL easy, glamorous, or quick. We spent the better part of an hour using different outfits, shooting away, and getting just the right angles. I felt silly standing on a stool in a lake gently moving my hands and arms up and down in the air, but this is a huge part of what you learn when you have your portraits taken - sometimes what feels the weirdest yields the coolest results. It's all about getting out of your head and your comfort zone and knowing that what you want to achieve by the end of it will blow your mind!

This whole month of self-portraiture taught me SO MUCH about myself. I learned that I respond really well to a time-sensitive goal that feels stretchy but achievable. By setting myself a new theme each week, I got to explore that theme deeply but also got to change it up. It gave me enough structure to stick to it, but enough variety to not get bored. By setting myself a daily goal of 1 image a day, I KNEW I could do it. I knew some shots would take longer, be contingent on weather, and I wouldn't love every photo.

But the same is true of anything you work on. Some songs that I write, I don't love. But that shouldn't stop me, it should spur me to write one I DO love. This 30 day challenge got me out of my comfort zone, forced me to try techniques I would have been nervous to try with a client for the first time, and got me 270 final images, averaging 9 images per day. And of course some of those images are b&w versions of the color edits, but it was fantastic to also note what style of editing I love most, what my favorite presets and effects are, and feel like a damn editing expert by the end of it. I'm so thrilled with the final outcome of this challenge and can take the lessons learned not only into my portrait client work, but also in all areas of my life.

Which day is your favorite?

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